Our treasured Jennifer Jan Smith passed away peacefully on December 3rd, 2022, at the age of 56 surrounded by her loving husband Brooks, son Max, and daughter Maddie.
Jennifer was welcomed into this world by her beloved parents Janice and Lyle (Dean) Ness and older brother James on November 18th, 1966, in Rochester, MN. Jennifer’s childhood was filled with outdoor adventures, boat rides, water skiing on Lake Pepin, basketball, track, rescuing stray cats and dogs, and always making friends anywhere she went.
Following high school, Jennifer attended Hamline University arming herself with a double major in Business Management and Psychology. At the age of 19, she married her true love, Brooks Smith, and their lives meshed as one. A powerful duo that loved each other unconditionally. In 1992, they welcomed their son Maxwell and in 1994, they welcomed their daughter Madison. Many animals also made their way into the Smith family home on Four Seasons Drive in Eagan.
Jennifer’s astounding career started at an early age at Dayton-Hudson as a shoe buyer. This role instilled qualities and principles she carried with her throughout her entrepreneurial journey. In 1994, Jennifer’s mother became ill, and she left her dream job to help her dad in the family business, Town & Country Office Products in Northfield. After selling that business, starting another one, and selling it, Jennifer started Innovative Office Solutions in 2001. Through her guiding principle of “Relationships Matter” and a team that became like family, Jennifer grew Innovative to be one of the largest and most respected independent office products and furniture dealers in the nation. Equipped with a sharp business sense and a keen eye for visionary transformation, Jennifer thrived in making audacious but calculated decisions. She had a gift for capitalizing on what she would call ROL, “Return on Luck,” and turning that luck into incredible success. Her infectious energy, ability to connect with others, invite collaboration, and uncover unforeseen opportunity gaps, opened the doors for unimaginable possibilities. Her lens of positivity inspired those around her to grow, thrive, find the good, and succeed.
Over her career at Innovative Office Solutions, Jennifer earned many prestigious awards including Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Most Admired CEO and most recently was inducted into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame. However, the award that she cherished the most was being named one of Minnesota’s Best Places to Work for seven plus years. She was so very proud of her employees and all they had accomplished.
With a passion to make the world a better place, Jennifer was a tireless participant in local business and community organizations as well as philanthropic initiatives. From developing international mentorship programs to guide women who sought the entrepreneurial path, to donating countless hours of her time, resources, and knowledge to various boards and charitable organizations, Jennifer truly made an impact in everything she did. She touched countless lives and was continually recognized within her industry as well as the local community for her accomplishments and impact.
Amid building and growing a thriving business, Jennifer always made time for her family and friends. Later in life, she found her new favorite destination, a beautiful cabin she and Brooks built on Whitefish Lake in Stone Lake, WI. It brought her tranquility as she woke up to the beautiful sunrises beaming over the still water. It was also her favorite place to enjoy boat rides and breakfast in bed with her grandson Braxton and granddaughter Stella. Jennifer, “Yay Yay” as her grandkids called her, would spend countless hours playing all manner of sports with Braxton, and she always found a way to sneak special treats when the adults weren’t looking.
Jennifer was a warrior throughout her life, and at no time was this more needed than in her battle with cancer. She was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2018, overcoming the disease only to be later diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2021. Jennifer battled Leukemia with the help of the City of Hope, Dr. Marcucci and his incredible team. For Jennifer, her life was always about something greater than herself. “We all have a purpose that God wants us to fulfill. Mine is to help find a cure for Leukemia. When I remember this, I am at peace.” – Jennifer. Not content with battling the disease for herself, Jennifer wanted to do more. She put out the call, and in the span of a couple of weeks, raised over $1M for Dr. Marcucci’s research. In the end, Jennifer beat Leukemia, died cancer free, and contributed to research that will save lives. Unfortunately, the incredible toll from the prolonged treatments was too much for her body.
Jennifer lit up a room with her brilliant smile and contagious energy. She had a zest for life, a passion to travel the world, a selfless heart, and a non-stop love for building relationships and making people feel important. She squeezed every ounce of life into each day. Her legacy will live on for years to come.
The Smith family invites you to join IN for a Celebration of Life at US Bank Stadium, 401 Chicago Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55415 on January 5th, 2023. The visitation will begin at 2:00pm with the Celebration of Life following at 3:00pm. We cordially ask that you RSVP by following the link https://forms.office.com/r/ph18J6GbfY.
On a continual path to help Dr. Marcucci at the City of Hope Hospital in CA find a cure for Acute Myeloid Leukemia, donations can be made in her honor directly to City of Hope, 1500 Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010, Attn: NBPI AML Research Accelerator Fund or online at https://ourhope.cityofhope.org/campaign/my-powerpak-or-supporting-dr-marcucci/c406297.
“Don’t let tomorrow take up too much of today,” – Jennifer Smith <3